In 2016 I had a seizure in the Michaelis lecture theatre. I was unable to walk, and was carried down the stairs by classmates. This experience was traumatic, but the reality of disability and accessibility on campus became much more apparent within my university experience.
If someone who is at the university requires universal access- the university cannot offer it. I was often unable to attend lectures due to my health and was not the only person who was disadvantaged by the lack of accessibility on campus- regarding physical and mental illness -among my peers. My grandfather has never been able to come to any of my exhibitions due to the lack of accessibility and I have been bed ridden after exhibitions due to not being given accessible venues even though I am listed as needing special access.
The blue hands climbing the stairs symbolise those who are at Michaelis and struggle on a daily basis with physical and mental disabilities. It symbolises those who decided not even to apply, because they knew they would never be able to attend their lectures up flights of stairs. To those who have left, to those who need to be supported and to those who the system has failed.
The figure at the end of the hands climbing up the stairs is wearing the clothes I wore the day I had the seizure in class.
The figure also has the same crutches I used when I was unable to walk and had to learn to walk again as a young teenager. The dress I wore is just long enough so I that wasn’t too exposed while being transported from the lecture theatre down the stairs, but not long enough to cover the pain I felt while being transported in this way.
The hands walking up the stairs are to make those who don’t even realize what these stairs symbolize in the eyes of someone who is disabled, think of the challenges they face. These hands are to show you the mental and physical strength it takes a disabled person to stay afloat in an exclusionary landscape and academic system.